It's been about a month since we last left off on Mario's latest voyage into the stars, and I'm only halfway done.
I can't really say how satisfying that feels. It feels like games these days go by way too quick, but this one just has a perfect pace to it, allowing you to stop playing for an infinite amount of time, and then coming back to it like you've never stopped adventuring.
I'll state the obvious, right now: This game is a masterpiece. But here's something you might not heard thrown around, and that is this game is already the best game of the year. Sorry, Donkey Kong and Kirby, but that's just how the cookie crumbles. In fact, this is already eligible for a "Best Games Of the Decade" list.
And I'm going to prove it right here. We'll be going over a few things before my final review (Mid July at the latest!), but wait! A question arises. If I go on and on about how much I love about the game, wouldn't my review be tedious to read? Me, I would've loved to do a back-to-back feature on my progress through the game, but unfortunately circumstances in the previous month prevented me from doing so, so how about this?
A three part feature on my favorite levels I've traversed throughout the game, and what I've enjoyed/noticed about them. Let's get started!
SKY STATION GALAXY
After an incredibly charming opening to the game, through certain events Mario finds himself launching into space once again. Once he's made a touchdown on his first planetoid (complete with a house!), those adorable Luma stars are pleading our hero to bring back the "Power Stars", beautiful stars that have been the objective of previous Mario games.
And so begins the first level of the game.
I won't be talking about the structure of the level, but I can talk about how much this level already resonates with the original Galaxy. The first level in that game went by the name of Good Egg Galaxy, and it took my breath away. I didn't just blaze through the level, I took interest in my surroundings, which was particularly innovative since it was two halves of a small planet. There wasn't nearly as much freedom as in Mario 64 or Sunshine, but it didn't matter, the scenery alone took my breath away. I wanted to be there forever, and I consistently found myself playing that level again and again.
It's the same deal here, except there's a lot more thrown at you. You are constantly guided by Lumas, who transform into Sling Stars to rocket you throughout the galaxy. Perilous traps and black holes await you, not to mention the onslaught of Goombas and their alien cousins Octoombas. You even take on a gigantic ship shaped as a cylinder, complete with gigantic Bullet Bills. Not everything is meant to be taken so seriously, though. If you find a giant coin with a question mark imprinted on it's surface, you can follow the pattern of music notes to gain an extra life. Sweet!
By the way, I hope you're listening to that music, because it's a huge part of the experience. Doesn't it sound like something out of a Disney film? The production values in this game are insane.
TALL TRUNK GALAXY
True to its name, you'd expect to find the likes of trees, branches and wood to be the foundation of this galaxy. At the beginning of the level, you find yourself underneath a gigantic, beautiful tree, surrounded by Goombas and hopping spiders. Luckily, our pal Yoshi is here to help you out!
Hey, wait, what's that he's eating?
In this game, Yoshi has the ability to eat different fruits to gain different powers. We'll go over this in more detail in the final review, but I'd like to talk about this one today: Blimp Yoshi. Yoshi expands into a great ball of pure fatness, lifting Mario on his back as he spouts air to travel from one place to another.
We'll be floating from one branch to another, if you don't mind...
So what do I like about this level? Many of these zany levels offer gravity-defying experiences, and while this one offers some of that, Tall Trunk prefers to sit back and let you carry out some good, fine platforming. A nice mix of both elements pops up when you have to search for five Sling Star fragments in order to continue the level, so you enter a "rotating" log of sorts and navigate through its dangers.
Of course, my favorite part of the level is the sliding portion. That's right, fellow Super Mario 64 fans, the slide is back in town, complete with nostalgic music to throw you back to those good ol' Nintendo 64 days!
Puzzle Plank Galaxy
Listen to this music.
I could listen to this all day. I hear it's of the bluegrass variety (OF WHICH I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT THAT MEANS), but I'd like to think it's country.
Anyway, this level's all about switches. And puzzles. And wood blocks! And that all means it's a rootin' tootin' time! You gotta slam down on the switches and figger out how these contraptions work. For example, one of those dang planetoids has an odd function in that when you pound on an embedded block on one side, it raises up on the other. Hmmm..
Of course, Puzzle Plank is not without it's hazardous perils. Those pesky Mandibugs are up to no good, and their top brass serve as the bosses of this domain. Not to mention renegade sawblades are on the loose and are cutting through these flat wooden catwalks, so you gotta move fast! If you linger too long, you'll find yerself fallin' down faster then dat cat scramblin' outta dat tree!
"Be careful, or be roadkill!"
I'd like to mention that I really like how often we see abstract objects floating in the skies in this game. Floating spoons? It's a hoot! And isn't that sky just gorrrgiiiizzz?
...Was the accent necessary? Who cares? I had fun with it.
Alright, two more to go! It'll be an interesting mix.
*Credit to IGN and the Mario Wiki for the screenshots.